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The Sea


NEW 2017
Ambrose Bowden (about 1751 to 1822)
Resident of Cawsand,Customs officer, captain of Revenue Cutter 'Busy', Buried at Rame. Athel Cornish-Bowden, GGG G son of Ambrose tells his tale. (New 2017)
Click here to read the story

NEW 2017
Officers & Men of the Customs, Revenue, Preventative Service

Names of local men serving in 18th and early 19th Century Click here

There are many worthy publications which detail the progress and extent of smuggling carried on in and around the South West Peninsula. A short list of titles follows below.

One of our own members, Jack Spense has authored:
Nelson's Avenger and the Smugglers of Plymouth Sound
by Jack Spence 2009

To order, please forward a cheque for £13 per copy (inc P&P) to Jack Spence, 10 Armada Road, Cawsand, Cornwall PL10 1PQ.

This section, will in the main comprise specific information from wide sources giving some idea of the activity of smugglers in our area.


'Five Sisters'
On Saturday evening last, about eight o clock, Mr. Foot, of the preventive waterguard, at Cawsand, captured a sprit sail boat, called the Five Sisters, belonging to Cawsand, with 98 tubs of foreign brandy and geneva on board, together with three men and a boy. The boat was first discovered by one of the preventive men on the look out from the bill, and conceiving her to be suspicious, he informed Mr. F. of the circumstance, when the latter accompanied by four men well armed took one of the pilot boats from the bay, and proceeded towards the boat in the offing. The smugglers did not suspect the persons in the pilot boat of any design on them until they were close to them; but on perceiving who the intended visitants were, they immediately crowded all sail, to effect their escape. This they were likely to effect when the preventive men showed their colours and comfiring musketry at the smugglers. The seventh shot fired cut away the sprit-sail halliards, when the main-sail fell, and the pursuers came alongside and secured the boat with its cargo and crew
The West Briton 10 July 1829


Cornwall Assizes. Richard Cock was tried by a special jury, under the Act for preventing fires from being made during the night on any part of the coast, as signal to smuggling vessels. Nicholas Marshall stated that is sitter of the preventative boat at Cawsand, which belongs to the port Plymouth. On the evening of the 7th of December last, the witness with some of his people, was on shore between Rame Head and Penlee Point. About half-past eight o clock they saw two fires and proceeded towards them; when they came within a few yards of the first fire, the person who was attending it ran away and escaped. On going towards the second fire, which was within 20
or 30 yards of the first, they saw the defendant. Richard Cock, with an instrument called a fire-fork, holding up the reed with which the fire was made, in order that it might blaze (Cock had little prospect of being acquitted. According to law, the burden of proof that the fire had been lighted for another purpose fell upon him, and at such a time and in so remote a place, it was obvious what he was doing.)
The West Briton 7 April 1815

The Times 'The Happy-Go-Lucky'
On Thursday night last the Happy-Go-Lucky Lug Sail Shallop, and the Stag cutter, both smuggling vessels belonging to Cawsand came on the coast from Guernsey, and had begun to land their cargoes to the west of the Ram[e] Head when the Pylades boat being out, discovered and rowed towards them; there were two midshipmen and five sailors in the boat; one of the midshipmen boarded the Stag cutter but being discovered by a man on the top-sail-yard, he gave the alarm which roused the smugglers below when immediately a man came upon deck with a blunderbuss, upon which he fired a musket at him, the contents of which lodged in his body, and he dropped. This man is supposed to be the captain.

The smugglers then fired into the Pylades boat; killed one of them broke another's arm, and wounded a third in the back. The general cry of the smugglers was 'Kill them all, donít let one go ashore to tell their story.' Both the smugglers vessels then went off and unloaded the rest of their cargoes to the westward.
This stag cutter was the
Brilliant revenue vessel commanded by Harry Jones, and mounted 18 carriage guns in the last war, and was sold to the Cawsand smuggler who for a number of years have bought up the vessels condemned as unfit for the Revenue Service; for what end, it is easy to guess a few dragoons quartered round the country, viz at Crofthole, Millbrook, Cawsand, Kingsand, Maker, etc, will put an end to this business. The Brandy Merchants Scheme has by no means put a stop to smuggling; for it is a truth that at this time there are more goods run on the coast of Cornwall and the North of Devon than ever; and the first great scheme of storing all seizures of small casks into large ones of 63 gallons each has been one great cause of this measure in smuggling, as housekeepers and small victualers used to furnish themselves at the custom house sales; but now these large casks are beyond their purses.

Last week his Majesty's ship
Fairy, Captain Thomas, arrived in the Sound with 2 Luggers her prizes laden with spirits. These make up the number of 15 smugglers the Fairy has taken this summer. In the whole during her station in these seas she has taken 19 smugglers. She is very properly called the smugglers scourge and the activity of her officers and crew has been the occasion of the false reports concerning her being siezed at Falmouth.
Friday 14th of October 1785.

Click on any of the following for more on smuggling:

The Old Smugglers Tale Commander H.N. Shore. 1899

Plymouth and Devonport in times of War and Peace 1900 Henry Whitfeld

Smuggling the other side - the Preventive Service

Smuggling P & D in times of War and Peace Whitfeld

Books on Smuggling

Autobiography of a Cornish Smuggler: An Autobiography 1749-1809 Harry Carter
ISBN-10: 0850253276
or free online here: http://www.smuggling.co.uk/ebooks/carter.html

King's Cutters and Smugglers 1700-1855, by E. Keble Chatterton The Project Gutenberg eBook, available free online

Memoirs of a Smuggler Jack Rattenbury
available free online: http://www.smuggling.co.uk/ebooks/rattenbury.html

Nelson's Avenger and the Smugglers of Plymouth Sound
by Jack Spence 2009 - a member of the RPHG.
To order, please forward a cheque for £12.00 per copy (inc P&P) to Jack Spence, 10 Armada Road, Cawsand, Cornwall PL10 1PQ.

Smuggling in Devon and Cornwall, 1700-1850 by Mary Waugh (Apr 1991)
ISBN-10: 1853061131

Smuggling in Cornwall and Devon by Lisa Newcombe
ISBN-10: 0711704287

Smuggling in Cornwall Cyril Noall
ISBN-10: 0851531016

Smuggling in Cornwall Frank Graham 1987
ISBN-10: 0907683282

Cornish Smuggling Industry (The Tor Mark series) by Paul White (Feb 1997)
ISBN-10: 0850253632

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